The following is the transcript of this podcast episode.:
Jodi: Hi, Tara. Thanks for coming on the show and for being my guest this episode.
Tara: Hi, it’s my pleasure to be here.
Jodi: Why don’t we start off with you sharing a few details about your backstory with me and with the listeners?
Tara: Well, I am 50 years old. I was married, divorced, now remarried. I have a daughter. I worked as a teacher and then in the regulatory industry. I’m now working as a notary. My hobbies, I love gardening. I read a lot and probably play way too much mahjong.
Jodi: You’re a mahjong addict?
Tara: I am.
Jodi: Well, I can think of worse things to be addicted to! So let’s get into the date. Where were you in your life when the date that we’re going to talk about took place?
Tara: I was in a very, very fragile state. I was getting divorced and just heartbroken over the death of the dream that I had had of having this marriage, this solid foundation, this forever commitment crumble in front of my eyes.
I had a very angry teenage daughter who was resentful and critical and there was essentially nothing that I could do right at the time. But there were some other things that we could relate around. It seemed to be technology that led us be together and not have her go off and explode over whatever it was that I happen to be doing at the moment. So I had her help me with my online dating profiles and taking pictures and setting those things up. It was helpful to our relationship, as strange as that sounds.
Jodi: How did she come to be okay with your dating?
Tara: My ex-husband was an alcoholic addict and I had a friend recommend going to Al-Anon to help me in dealing and coping effectively with the leftover, just the leftover sewage that comes from addiction. So Al-Anon has a program for kids. So while I was in my meeting, she could be in her meeting and they all talked about their hopes and wishes and I think that it was very therapeutic for her. It was for me for certain.
Jodi: That’s tremendous that you both did this together, not in the room together, but had this similar experience simultaneously so you both could heal from coming out of the marriage.
Tara: Yes. And it is what ultimately led me to the first date that we’re going to talk about. While I was in the program, I was doing online dating, and initially, I didn’t know what I wanted. I just knew that I wanted to get back out there. I wanted to start dating again. So I tried a couple of different dating sites. I kept meeting, essentially, what is the same type of guy that my ex-husband was. First of all, they were dishonest. I’d see these pictures of this thin, vibrant, young looking man and then go to have coffee and it would be this ragged-looking man that was 50 pounds heavier and not quite as vibrant as his picture had appeared.
Jodi: What would you say to him or them when that happened?
Tara: I didn’t say anything. Honestly, I have to say that my face probably said it all. I can’t play poker.
Jodi: You play mahjong. You don’t play poker.
Tara: You got it.
Jodi: So you were disenchanted, I guess, to some degree. You saw a profile, you thought you were going to meet one guy look at one way, wherever you met the same guy but looking a very different way.
Tara: Exactly. And so there was that part of it that was disheartening. Then there were some other men that I had meant that they were younger me, but they didn’t understand the complexities of being a parent and had expressed some ridiculous views and some ridiculous expectations that were unrealistic. So those were just bums, for lack of a better word. They were bums.
Jodi: Here, you were dating these people, you were a bit frustrated with these sites, what did you do?
Tara: In Al-Anon, Al-Anon is a 12-step program. You usually have a sponsor. I had one and I expressed my frustration to her and she asked me, “Do you know what you’re looking for?”
Jodi: Good question.
Jodi: A very good question.
Tara: Exactly. And I’m like, “No, I guess I don’t.” So her suggestion was to take one piece of paper, make three columns. It must have cannot have and then negotiable items. And so I did that. I just kind of put it to the wayside. I kept it in the back of my head. And then the next time that I went online, I decided that I would modify my profiles on the different sites to more accurately reflect what was in that traits wanted list.
As I was doing this, I saw an ad for JDate popped up and I looked at it. I’m like, “That’s interesting,” and then I’m just like, “Hmm.” I started thinking about it. At the time, my primary care physician was Jewish. And so I’m like, “Doctor? Doctor is Jewish and he is tall. He is handsome. He is educated. He is cultured. He’s articulate. I want somebody like that!”
Jodi: But you are not Jewish.
Tara: No, I’m not. And that was my thought. “I’m not Jewish. I can’t go on there. I’m not Jewish. Man, I’d really like to meet somebody like my doctor.” And so I’m like, “Well, what the heck. I won’t say that I’m Jewish. So I won’t be lying.
When it comes to questions of race, culture, religion, I’ll have to answer honestly.” So when it came to religion, I said, “I was spiritual.” When it came to Ashkenazi or Sephardic…
Jodi: You said “Other”?
Tara: Yeah, I just said “Other.” I came back home from a date that was not good and I was bummed out. I was kind of despondent. When I got home, my daughter was there and she had a friend over and she’s like, “Mom, can we crash in your room because you have a bigger bed. We’ll be more comfortable and then you can go in my room and go online on to the dating sites.”
It did encourage me because it had not been a good date. So I went in and I signed on to both Match and JDate. And within a couple of minutes of being online, I got a ping from some bum guy. I don’t even remember his name. And then a couple minutes later, I got a ping from Lee.
Jodi: Now how long ago did this happen that you got pinged by Lee when you went on JDate?
Tara: It was about six years ago.
Jodi: What did you think when his face popped up on your screen?
Tara: I looked at him. I’m like, “Hmm, he is kind of cute. He is handsome and tan and dark hair.” I like hairy men.
Jodi: Good to know. (Laughter)
Tara: Yes. (Laughter)
Jodi: Now we know a little more about Lee.
Tara: So anyway, I was like, “Hmm, he looks yummy!” I wasn’t looking for a relationship. I was looking just for someone to have fun with. The last thing I wanted was to be in a relationship because I’m going through this icky divorce. My marriage had crumbled and I didn’t want Mr. Right. I just wanted Mr. Right Now.
Jodi: It makes total sense. You’ve been through the ringer and you’re ready to start living again and you wanted someone to be out and about with and get to know and have fun with.
Tara: We had this very flirtatious chat online and I think it was probably 3:00 A.M. before I was like, “Listen, I got to go. I’ve got a two-hour drive to go to my girlfriend’s. We’re going to celebrate her birthday and I got to get up early for that. So I will be back on Sunday. I’ll talk to you then.” The next morning, my daughter and I, we jumped in the truck and drove to my girlfriend’s. While we were there, I was telling my friend, “You know, I met this guy online. There’s just something about him and he’s really cute.”
So I signed under my profile while I was at her place and I showed her his picture and we read through all the stuff and she’s like, “Huh, sounds good!” And of course, I had to check and see if he’d been on my profile. “Was he looking to me? Did he see my pictures?” I was just full of excitement! The next day was Sunday. I went back home and it was later, but I had to go back online and see that cute guy there.
So I did and it was probably about 10 o’clock at night. He was online. He asked me if I wanted to meet for a drink. I’m replied, “Sure. Yeah,” not thinking about the fact that it’s 10:30 at night. And I’m like, “Okay. I’ll meet you at 11:00.” We had agreed upon meeting at this Irish pub. It was about a half an hour drive for me. Thinking about it, I’m just like, “Are you 13? Really? Come on.” I called my girlfriend who’s local and I’m like, “Yeah, I agreed to meet him at this pub.” And she’s like, “Are you nuts?” I said, “Yeah. Yeah. I’m crazy.” So I said, “Well, this is what I’ll do. I’ll go back online. If he’s still online, I’ll reschedule. But if he’s not online, I’m just going to go and make it quick because I don’t want to be flaky.”
Jodi: Did she say that you were crazy to do this because it was so late on a Sunday night, or for another reason?
Tara: Exactly. No, it’s because it was late on a Sunday night. I had to work early and she had applauded the fact that I did not meet him at his house.
Jodi: Very smart.
Tara: Yes, because he had been in the Jacuzzi.
Jodi: He was messaging with you from the Jacuzzi?
Tara: He was on his phone. So yes. He was in the Jacuzzi and I’m just like, “Yeah, no way. I’m not going to do that.” And she’s like, “Well, you know, that’s good.” Yeah, she thought I was nuts. I had to be at work early. I had to be at work at 7:00 A.M. That’s why she was asking me, “Are you nuts?” And I’m just like, “Yeah, I guess so.” I had a meeting I had to prep for. There are all of these things pointed to the fact that this is not a good idea for you to do right at this moment. However, I didn’t want to be a flake. He wasn’t online and I had made the commitment. I got in my truck and I drove to the pub. I got there first. There was one other couple sitting there at a table. The bartender was a woman, which I was very thankful for.
Tara: I said to her that, “I’m meeting a guy here that I met online and I’m not sure about him. I’m not sure how this is going to go. Can you kind of keep an eye out just in case things get weird?” And she said, “Yeah, sure. I can do that.”
Jodi: You had a wingwoman right there.
Jodi: You had somebody looking out for you. Good thing you got there early. Did you feel a little more calm because another woman was there to help you out if you needed helping during that date?
Tara: Exactly. I felt like, “Okay, somebody’s got my back.” So he got there and I looked at him and I said, “You’ve got a half an hour.”
Jodi: That was your hello?
Tara: That was my hello.
Jodi: How did he react to that greeting?
Tara: You know…big eyes, wide open, sort of blank, and he’s like, “Okay.”
Jodi: Did you like what you saw and did he look like you expected him to look?
Tara: I liked what I saw, and yes, he did. There was definite truth in advertising, in terms of his pictures.
Tara: We sat there and we talked. An hour later, I said, “I got to go!” That half an hour flew by. I never looked at my watch and the conversation flowed. It was easy and I was super comfortable. He paid the tab. And as we were walking out, he’s like, “You know, your picture is not very flattering.”
Jodi: He said that to you as you’re walking out of the bar?
Tara: Yes! He says that to me. “Your picture was not very flattering.” I’m like, “Oh, really?” He’s like, “No.” He said, “You are much prettier than the picture gives the impression of.” And I’m like, “Oh, well, thank you.” He walked me to my truck and I said, “Well, thanks. I hope to talk to you soon.” And I shook his hand and got in my truck and went home.
Jodi: You shook his hand. Who initiated that shake?
Tara: I did.
Jodi: You did. So you set the terms for how the date was going to end. You put that hand out first.
Tara: Exactly. Because even though it had gone great — we definitely clicked and had chemistry — I’m just like, “Nope. No physical stuff. I don’t want to be kissed. I don’t want to be hugged. I don’t want to be touched.” So, I just stuck out my hand. It sent the message. It was a very, very clear nonverbal message that it’s not going to happen. Don’t even try.
Jodi: Do you remember getting any acknowledgement from the bartender before you left? Was she checking out how the two of you were doing and did she follow up with you in any way?
Tara: Oh, yeah. Yeah, she did. She was cleaning the bar by us and, “Everything okay here? Can I get you anything right now?” She was really present but not intrusive. It was wonderful and I did mouth thank you to her as we were leaving
Jodi: Tara, now that we’ve heard about your first date, please share the rest of the story.
Tara: He texted me every day for the next two and a half years.
Jodi: Every day?
Tara: Every day. And at the time, he was traveling a lot for work. He was going to Argentina. He was going to places in Europe. I swear he was in New York every two months – never missed a day.
Jodi: That’s amazing!
Tara: Yeah, it was. I didn’t have his name saved into my phone at first. I just kept getting these text messages from this certain number and then…
Jodi: Wait. How long did this go on, the texting, before you put his name in your contact list?
Tara: A week and a half or two. I think it was about two weeks before I saw him again. We met at that same Irish pub. We’re there for a couple of hours just talking, talking, talking. It was just easy conversation. And then when we went to leave, I let him kiss me.
Jodi: Sweet. Where did things go from there?
Tara: We were both in the same spot when we met. I was crushed and torn because of my failed marriage and he was in the same spot. He had just had his marriage fail. He had been married longer than I and he had three kids. Neither of us were looking for a relationship and especially not to get married again. Because of where we were in our lives, with just wanting somebody to have fun with and hang out with, and have things be easy, we were both relaxed and not worried about where things were going; what’s the next step. It wasn’t something that was desired.
Jodi: How long did you continue dating online before you decided to get off and just be with Lee?
Tara: It was a matter of months. When my subscriptions expired, I decided not to new them. I got a couple of other phone calls and went on other dates, third and fourth dates with some other people that I had met locally. We didn’t really talk about it in a direct manner. But the way that I felt about it was, a) I’m not married, b) we’ve never said anything about being exclusive and c) it’s not his business. It’s my business who I date and I spend time with.
I didn’t feel the need to tell him about it and he didn’t share details with me either. He would say some offhand things that made it clear that he was dating other people. We both got to the point of desiring to just be with one another at different times. I had stopped dating other people and was to a point where I was comfortable with just dating him.
Jodi: Did you tell him that?
Tara: Nope. I didn’t. Well, there were a couple of reasons for it. Number one, I knew where he was at, and just because I was okay with just dating him, I didn’t need him to be in the same spot as me. I was very satisfied with where things were and I needed him to get to that point on his own.
Jodi: Very wise.
Tara: Yeah. You can’t make another person want to, or be, committed to only dating you and expecting it to last if you force the issue.
Jodi: So true. You got to a very healthy place. You really knew where you were at.
Tara: At the start of year three, there was a shift. There was an emotional shift that we had. It shifted to “Yeah, this person is really important to me and the time that we’re spending together, it’s not enough. I want to wake up with you.” We decided to live together and blended our families. It was after we had lived together for a couple of months that we had our anniversary coming up.
Jodi: Which anniversary was this?
Tara: It was the anniversary of us meeting for the first time at the Irish pub. We made plans to go out to a local restaurant. We were able to sit outside and watch the sunset and just a wonderful dinner, a great bottle of wine. He started talking about how happy he was with things and with our relationship. I told him, “I’m happy too. I just want you to understand that living together has a shelf life.”
And to that, he said, “Well, what do you think about making it permanent?” I just kind of curled up my nose thinking about it and then he gets down and he asks, “Will you marry me?” I’m like, “Shut up!”
Jodi: He caught you by surprise!
Tara: I had no idea he was going to propose. None. The people at the surrounding tables realized what was going on and they heard me tell him to shut up. They were all laughing!
Jodi: They’re laughing. What are you doing? Were you laughing or crying?
Tara: I was dumbfounded! Finally, when I get my druthers back about me, I said, “Yes, of course. Yes!” He showed me the ring. Yeah. It was a beautiful night. We got married a year later. We had all of our kids in this ceremony. My best friends, of course, had to be there, both the one whose birthday it was on the day we met, and the one who told me that I was crazy.
Jodi: They both had special roles to play in you and Lee making it to the altar.
Tara: Yes. They did.
Jodi: What a story! You went online not to meet your future husband, but to meet a companion and to heal from pain that your previous marriage had inflicted upon you and you surprisingly, unintentionally, found love and a husband.
Tara: Yes. We both learned valuable lessons from that first go round that we had and are now able to bring more richness to our relationship. It’s something I’m very grateful for.
Jodi: There are women listening to our conversation who have come out of relationships that have been very damaging. What advice do you have, based on your experience, on how to heal and move on and be back in the dating world after such a devastating experience?
Tara: My advice would be to concentrate on yourself and your children, if you have any, first before trying to find something new, or a replacement model for what you left. I know it’s an old clichéd saying, but ‘anything that is good is worth waiting for,’ and it is.
Having talked with my husband over the years, he’s shared how angry women were when he went on dates with them. They were always complaining about an ex. Well, no man that is a potential new relationship wants to hear those sorts of things. It’s much better to take time and engage in some sort of healing activity for yourself before you try to find something new.
Jodi: That’s very sage advice. It’s helpful that you also shared the man’s point of view as to how a guy experiences going out with women who are not at a healthier place yet.
Tara: I was working on me. I wasn’t even 30 percent healed or recovered from the inflicted wounds and heartbreak at the time that I met Lee. But when we went out, I was up front and present and there with him. I was in the moment. He did tell me that that was the reason he kept dating me. It was because I never talked about my ex.
Jodi: It’s as simple as that. Don’t talk about your ex!
Jodi: Having gone back to dating after so many years away, was there anything that you did differently this time?
Tara: Yes. There was. I wore much more concealing clothing. (Laughter) I wore turtlenecks that were not skin-tight. I wore jeans that you could not tell what religion I was. (Laughter) I still wore heels. I still looked sharp, but I left a lot to the imagination and was a lot more conservative in my dress because I didn’t want to look fast and easy or fast and sleazy. However you want to put that. So things went slower and it set a good precedent for male behavior. (Laughter)
Jodi: And then occasionally, you put your hand out, which also was an indication that things were going to go slower. It’s been a treat talking to you, Tara. It’s been so much fun to hear the story of how you came from a very dark place and propelled yourself forward with the help of your daughter, and went out into the world again and again and, ultimately, realized what you wanted in a person. Then you found that person and your relationship went much further than you had ever anticipated. And here we are and the two of you are happily married. It’s a great, great tale. I’m so thrilled for you both and I really enjoyed speaking with you.
Tara: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you Jodi, and good luck ladies!